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Justin Hardee Latest in a Long List to Find a New Home as NFL’s New Kickoff Rules Finally Puts Spotlight Back on Special Teams

Published 04/02/2024, 3:40 PM EDT

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In a significant turn of events, Justin Hardee, the esteemed captain of the New York Jets’ special teams and a Pro Bowler in 2022, is set to embark on a new chapter of his career. This move, confirmed by sources and reported by Rich Cimini ESPN NFL Nation reporter, signals a crucial shift in the NFL special teams.

Particularly amidst the league’s adoption of new kickoff rules based on the old XFL format, Hardee’s departure from the Jets undoubtedly leaves a void in their special teams. 

Hardee’s move to the Browns

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After serving as a cornerstone of the Jets’ special teams unit over the past three seasons, Hardee made the significant decision to join the Browns. An ESPN reporter posted on X, “Justin Hardee, the Jets’ special teams captain and a Pro Bowler in 2022, is signing with the #Browns, source confirms. Tough loss for the #Jets special teams and the locker room.”

He also said that the Browns’ official announcement of Hardee’s signing marks a homecoming for the talented athlete, who was born and raised in Cleveland before making his mark in the football world. With a Pro Bowl nod under his belt and a reputation for drawing double teams on the field, Hardee’s arrival in Cleveland brings a wealth of experience and skill to the Browns’ special teams lineup.

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As Hardee bids farewell to the Jets, his departure opens doors for emerging talents like Irv Charles to step into larger roles within the team. Charles, who showcased his potential as a gunner for the Jets last season, represents yet another special teams gem unearthed by coordinator Brant Boyer.

Justin Hardee’s journey in the NFL is all about never giving up and pushing through tough times.

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Justin Hardee’s NFL career

Initially signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2017, Hardee found it difficult to make his mark in the highly competitive league. But his talents caught the attention of the New Orleans Saints, and they signed him to their practice squad in September 2017. Hardee’s moment to shine came in Week 9 of his rookie season when he blocked a punt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, returning it for a TD and getting recognized as the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Hardee recorded his first NFL career reception and interception in the 2018 season. His impact on the field earned him a spot in all 16 regular-season games and two postseason games. In 2020, Hardee faced a brief setback because of injury but bounced back to contribute to the Saints’ success on special teams. However, it was in 2021 that Hardee’s career took a significant turn as he signed a three-year contract with the New York Jets. 

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Despite facing challenges such as injuries in the 2023 season, his journey in the NFL exemplifies the importance of hard work in achieving success. Do you think he will reach greater heights with the Browns?

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Written by:

Paramita Banik

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Paramita Banik is an NFL writer for EssentiallySports. She has been following Deion Sanders and his journey with the Buffaloes. Her coverage is focused on the Buffs’ off-season training.
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Edited by:

Garima Yadav